Aug 16, 2014

Make Ahead Recipe: Spaghetti with Pesto Made with Anchovies, Green Olives, and Parsley

Traditional pesto comes with basil and pine nuts as main ingredients. As for this recipe, we are going to have a little twist and substitute basil with parsley. To enhance the flavor, anchovies, green olives, lemon, and lime are also incorporated into the sauce. 

Ingredients (for 6 to 8 portion)?

  • 1 pack/500 grams of squid ink spaghetti
  • 30 small/medium sized peeled and deveined shrimps
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of red chili flakes
  • Some salt
  • Some pasta water
  • Some grated Taleggio cheese

For the parsley pesto:

  • 28 pitted green olives
  • 10 anchovies in oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 big bundle of parsley (save a little for garnish)
  • 1 lemon (both juice and zest)
  • 1 lime (both juice and zest)
  • 1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts
  • Lots of olive oil (I used about 250 grams)
  • Some freshly ground black pepper


Toast the pine nuts till it get slightly light browned color and the nutty aroma comes out -

Transfer the toasted pine nuts into a food processor. Also add in all the remaining ingredients except olive oil listed under the "parsley pesto" section. Give it a few pulses then pour in the olive oil, blend till smooth or slightly grainy depending on your preference -

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and add in one large spoonful of salt. Cook the spaghetti in the pot till al dente in texture. Save one cup of pasta water before draining, we might need that to dilute the pasta sauce later.

Peel and devein the shrimps. Peel and finely chop 2 more garlic cloves. 

Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan or enough to evenly coat the bottom. Add in chopped garlic along with red pepper flakes, turn to medium heat. Cook for one minute then add in the shrimps. Sear till 50% cooked through. 

Pour in the parsley pesto and heat it up for about one minute. Add in drained pasta and mix well. See if the sauce needs to be diluted a bit, if so, pour in some pasta water we saved earlier till desired consistency.

Transfer the spaghetti to the serving plate and top with generous amount of grated Taleggio cheese. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with Tabasco sauce if a more sourish taste is preferred.

The parsley pesto can be prepared one to two days before serving. The citrusy juice and the zest will keep the pesto fresh while stored in the fridge. You can even grate the cheese in advance, that should save a lot of prep and cleaning work when you're about to serve the pasta.

Other pasta recipes:

Fusion paste recipe: creamy and garlicky pork spaghetti
Wine pairing: lamb ragu with Punica Barrua 2010
Spicy chicken and broccoli spaghetti, topped with grated Pecorino Romano and poached egg

Aug 10, 2014

Chocolate Truffle Torte Infused with a Little Bit of Coffee and Cognac - Recipe from the "Chocolate Box"

This recipe is derived directly from the recipe book "Chocolate Box." In most cases, I don't really follow recipe book when cooking savory dishes. Sometimes I do check on the ingredients used, admire delicious looking food pictures, and see if some inspiration will come out of it. However, it's a totally different case when it comes to dessert. 

Precise and specific amount of ingredients used is key to successful baking. My usual "just a little bit" or "few splashes" type of measurements do not work on sweet stuff. That's when I seek help from recipe books, and that's how this chocolate torte was born.

Ingredients? (based on the recipe from the book "Chocolate Box")

Sponge -

  • Some unsalted butter for greasing
  • 1/4 cup of superfine sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa 
  • 4 tablespoons of cold, strong black coffee
  • 2 tablespoons of cognac

Truffle filling -

  • 2 1/2 cups of whipping cream
  • 15 oz/425 grams of semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces

To decorate -

  • Some unsweetened cocoa 
  • Some confectioners' sugar


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and line a 9-inch springform cake pan with parchment paper.

Use a double broiler, or just put the sugar and eggs in a heatproof bowl over a small pot of gently simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the boiling water. Whisk till pale and resembling the texture of mousse. 

Take a big bowl, sift in the flour and unsweetened cocoa -

Slowly add the powder mixture into the batter and fold gently. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until risen and slightly firm to the touch. 

Take the cake out of the pan and place on a wire rack to cool down. Wash and dry the pan and replace the cooled cake back into the pan. Mix together the coffee and cognac -

Brush the liquid over the cake.

As for the truffle filling, whisk the cream till just holding very soft peaks. I highly recommend using an electric tool during this step, otherwise you might get sore arms (or some muscle!) the day after. 

Melt the chocolate using a double broiler and let it cool down a little. Carefully fold the melted chocolate into the cream. Pour the mixture over the sponge. Transfer to the fridge until set, at least 4 hours just to be safe.

Decorate the torte right before serving. Sift unsweetened cocoa all over the top first and carefully remove the torte from the pan -

Sift confectioners' sugar over the torte, maybe with the help of strips of paper in order to create patterns with straight lines. 

Just be careful not to breathe too heavily or sneeze during this step, otherwise you'll get sugary powder flowing all over the kitchen.

Cut the cake using a hot knife to prevent from sticking. Preferably serve with unsweetened tea or coffee.

I actually store the remaining cake into the freezer. Before serving, take out the cake and let it rest in room temperature until just soft enough to cut through with a knife. You'll get ice cream like texture that way, which is perfect for a summer afternoon treat.

*Please spare me on the rough looking bottom layer. After all, it was my first try making chocolate torte.

Aug 3, 2014

Fancy Salad is Not as Hard as It Looks - Utilizing Store Bought Ingredients to Create Restaurant Quality Greens

Ever fancy those restaurant quality salads topped with all sorts of yummy ingredients such as dried fruit, walnuts, cheese, and even seafood? Tired of plain old combo of salad greens with store bought dressing? 

A nice (and photogenic) salad is actually not hard to make, especially when you have most of the common ingredients such as raisins and walnuts stored in the cabinet. I was actually looking for fresh duck breast to use in this salad recipe. However, it's not a common item here in Taiwan, even though later on I did sign up for a food importer's membership, which they carry a wide variety of quality meat products. Luckily I came across smoked duck breast in the grocery store, even better! Smoked version adds more flavor profile to the salad and save a lot of searing plus cleaning work for me in the kitchen. 

Let's see how this fancy salad was created with my assembling skills -

Ingredients (for two)?

  • 1 box of salad mix
  • 1/4 small smoked duck breast
  • 1 orange
  • 10 walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • Small pinch of salt
  • Small pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • Small handful of dried cranberries
  • Some goat cheese (I used feta)


Mix the balsamic vinegar together with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Easiest way is to add all these ingredients to a container, close the lid, and start shaking. You can even put the dressing in the fridge first and shake again right before drizzling on top of the salad greens.

Take a pan and toss in the walnuts. Evenly pour about 1 tablespoon of honey on the walnut and turn to medium heat. Lightly toast the walnuts till the honey gets stickier. The walnuts will stick onto the pan, just pick them up and toss onto the salad right before serving.

I used an orange for this recipe, but other kind of citrus such as tangerine and grapefruit work as well. The picture below shows that the orange was separated in half because I wanted to eat some while cutting the other half into segments. 

The easiest way to get clean cut citrus segments is to cut off both ends first. Run the knife along the peel from top to bottom, removing all the white section. Carefully cut right next to each membrane in order to pull out the segments. Once done, set the segments aside or squeeze the juice from the leftover part then store the segments in its own juice. 

Slice the smoked duck breast into about 1/3 inch thickness -

If using fresh duck breast, score the skin and season with salt and pepper. Sear with skin side down first till golden browned then flip over to sear the other side. Once the meat gets slightly browned color, remove the breast from heat and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. 

We're all ready move on to the assembly line. Toss the salad greens with balsamic and olive oil dressing, plate the greens onto the serving plate. Sprinkle the honey toasted walnuts and dried cranberries. Arrange the duck breast slices along the edge. Lastly, which I didn't remember till half way through my meal, add some goat cheese crumbles throughout -

The fresh citrus segments really make a difference by adding more moisture to the bites. Goat cheese also adds extra saltiness and creaminess for the rather plain greens.

Glad I noticed something was missing (my goat cheese!), at least my last few bites were completed with every ingredient -

Most of the ingredients can be stored or even prepared ahead. Next time, when you're craving for some fancy salad, why not try to make it yourself?